Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do I Pseudoteach?

Yesterday, one of the things I talked about was the importance of my PLN and how much I valued the connections I have made through the people and the lists that I followed.  On my Twitter #edchat list tonight, an article was linked to about an apparently tremendous physics teacher at MIT and the impact that direct lecture had on his students and how MIT changed their classroom practices because of it.  (I linked to the article in the title of this post, but will do it again here.) 

I would like to think that I have improved my teaching by avoiding the temptation to "pseudoteach," but the article has really caused me to reflect on what I am doing and how I am doing it, which I suppose is what this blogging and PLN all about.  I have worked hard to involve my students more in my lessons, and make each of them less about me standing at the front and more about them analyzing the information I am trying to have them understand and discussing it with me and each other.  It is why I will continue to have them blog, to force all of them, even the ones who may not want to or feel that they may not get the opportunity to do so in class, to interact with the material.  I hope that has made my students not just better history students, but also better students in general.  That they understand the importance of becoming a part of all of the material they are studying will help them in the long run. 

I will continue to reflect on my lessons, to make sure that I take my students into consideration when I am developing them and work to make sure that they are more than just present in my class, but participants in their own education.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where To Begin

The hardest part of being one of a few people in a school that tries to implement technology in the classroom is continuing to find ways for us to inspire ourselves and, in turn, each other to keep using trying to be innovative. Two things have come across my e-mail this week that have really made me think about that and about what those of us who are trying to be innovative need to keep doing to help others in our building to see what that we were are trying to get our students to accomplish can be used in their classrooms as well.

The first e-mail that came in was a question from an edWeb community that I belong to and was entitled: Does your school have a culture of innovation or does your school have pockets of innovation? I really believe that we have only pockets of innovation or as I said "a pocket" of innovation. It just seems as if four or five of us are willing to do what we can to bring new ideas into our building, and others are willing to listen to us as we come up with different ideas, but how many of them are willing to truly implement them. It appears that they are politely listening to us and saying "wow, that's really great" and then they go about their business as usual. I wish I knew the answer as to why that is, but I just know that I can only worry about what I am doing and the opportunities that I am providing to my students to enrich their lives and, hopefully, give them the tools they need to continue their learning beyond the classroom.

Which brings me to my second e-mail, a post from the principal at Burlington High School, Patrick Larkin. His most recent posterous entry entitled Lifelong Learners asked the question Where would you start in your classroom or school being the model for the change that is necessary? Now, because Principal Larkin is frequent "Tweeter," blog poster, and general zealot in the cause of bringing technology into the hands of all of our students, I am quite familiar with his thoughts on technology and so I found his question intriguing. I would like to think that my willingness to show my students that I am doing all of the things that I am asking them to do (blogging, VoiceThread, etc.), that that would be enough to demonstrate to them the importance not only of using technology, but also the importance of wanting to learn about new ideas regardless of age or station in life. I guess if I were to suggest to someone where that modeling needs to begin, it needs to be with joining an on-line PLN and learn as much you can about what is out there to motivate and inspire our students. We can't be afraid to tell our students that we are learning right along with them and showing them the product of our learning.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Days, Flipping, & Activities

I don't know which snow day we are on today.  I know that it is either #4 or #5, but either way it is about 3 or 4 too many.  As a teacher, I try desperately to make sure that my students are able to finish units before vacations or extended time away from class, also known as MCAS.  Losing yet another day to the snow (with potentially more to come next week) has put my classes in a potentially difficult position with regard to that.

What the snow is allowing me to do, however, is try an experiment that I have been intrigued about since I first read about it a couple of weeks ago.  It is the concept of "flipping" the class.  I first read about here and after reading the post and watching the video that went with it, my understanding of this concept is that my students will participate in the "direct instruction" (i.e. lecture/notes) of the lesson outside of the classroom, thereby opening up the class time for activities surrounding that topic.  My hope was that I would be able to do it with Uncle Tom's Cabin, but Mother Nature has intervened, so now I am going to try and run two activities at the same time and conduct activities based on UTC and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  By dividing the class in half, giving them a chance to work with each other on the individual activities and then allowing them time to pair up and share their experiences, my hope is that we will be able to get back on track with our look at the 1850s.  

More to come tomorrow.